via Daily Prompt: Ordinary When I was younger, I used to think that my life was ordinary. I used to think my family of four (mother, father, brother, sister) was ordinary. Things changed when we lived in an all white neighborhood for a spell. The kids in that area of my town, made me feel bad about my heritage, because it wasn’t something we shared. They really didn’t understand a kid with a Black father and a hispanic mother was just like them. It was a very “non-ordinary” feeling. When I turned 12 years old, my family moved back into the (semi-urban) city environment and I felt more in touch with the people who ‘looked’ like me. I lived on the north side of my town through High School. I took a leap of faith and started in a university town along the Mississippi River–far away from my community. At that time, there was only 60 black students on campus. We identified with each other, but because of my heritage, I was anything, but ordinary to them. I still keep in contact with some of those friends today. They are good people. Soon following graduation, I did the unthinkable (to some people). I dropped everything and served my country by joining US Peace Corps. There, I served the municipality of Tisma, Nicaragua from 1994-1996.
In those years I found many of the people in my village in which I served and resided to look like me. We couldn’t be more different. We spoke different languages. Our education levels were different. The climate in which I was from was different. I never experienced the levels of poverty, war, natural disasters, or lived in a post-socialist economy before my service. With all the differences among the village residents and me, I had to find some common ground. The work I did accomplished that.
I served the community of Tisma, Nicaragua as a community Health Educator. Together with the Health Center, I trained as many as 45 volunteer health promoters (vhp) on many issues of preventative health. Many of the volunteer promoters I worked with were children. Many of the vhps are women. Very few of the vhps are men.
No matter the ages, or sex, I had to realize that my feeling of being ordinary was not such a bad thing, because, to me, my new friends were not ordinary. To them, I was not ordinary, either. I learned about them, they learned about me. Learning about someone, however, is never ordinary. I sooned learned that man could not survive on work alone. I was only going to discover commonality among my new friends once I started to meet people.
All of the differences between me and my host country, as we all became better acquainted, seemed not so important anymore. Most Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) will relate the same anecdote when referring to the host country nationals: “I learned a lot more from them, than they learned from me.” I will concur. The skills in Second Language Acquisition (Spanish in my case), alone, is a skill I will use for life. Another non-ordinary skill. Mind you an open-society like the countryside communities in Latin America aided in this. The weather, different from the upper midwest climate I’m from, helped me to get out more. This former tea-toddler embraced the livations which made one lose inhibitions, and become social. This was different from work, but helped me all around with my skills.
Skills aside, I married a host country national. I lived in country one more year. My wife and I reunited in the US later. We have two children, and for the time being, we reside in my hometown. Spanish speakers from my hometown are impressed with my language skills. Friends who I grew up are seem impressed with me and my experience. As I am with them and their experiences when I catch-up with them.
The point of this, is that you are not ordinary. Everybody has a story tell. you will expand your awareness when you listen. It doesn’t matter who you are, or who they are, just listen. I’m always impressed. Once you listen, you will find that your life and your acquaintances’ lives are anything, but ordinary.